Nemesis, NoBloPoMo, Stories...

Nemesis… Chapter 6 (Day 8)

“I am Blackwing,” she says as she steps towards me, breaking the spell that holds me enthralled.  “You are most welcome here!,” she adds with that half-smile.  Her voice is high-pitched and quick-tempo-ed, bird-like, and makes me dream of all things summer…

I step forward to greet her, extending my hand, preparing to introduce myself, but she waves my words away with a flick of a wing tip…

“No need to introduce yourself, O’LeaRa, for you are well known here.  Your scent is everywhere among these sacred trees,” she chirps at me.

I glance over her shoulder at the Mother in the distance, wanting desperately to go pay my respects…  Blackwing smiles full on before responding to that need…

“There isn’t time right now, O’LeaRa, but the Mother knows your heart.  And she has tasked me with guiding you today.”  She reaches gently for my elbow, turning me away and toward a path that leads away from here.  “Come, let’s walk while we talk,” she suggests, pulling me along…

“We need to talk about the other night,” she begins, her tone much more serious now.

I hang my head briefly, feeling shame, then begin my explanations…

“I’m so sorry about that, Blackwing!  I don’t know what went wrong, other than over-reaching…”

“Shhh…,” she interrupts. “You are not here to face judgment, child; what’s done is done now…  But the Mother, all of us, we need your help.”

“Of course,” I answer, without thinking much.  “I live to serve the wild beings.”

She nods, birdlike, several times, before speaking again, as if considering how best to say what comes next.  I wonder if it’s the language barrier that holds her up, or more likely the thought differences, for birds do not generally think like us.  I wait, patiently, for her to guide the conversation where it needs to go…

“What’s done is done,” she repeats herself.  “But now what’s done must be undone, for all our sakes!”  She looks ahead, down the path, her demeanor shifting with every step to something darker.  A chill sweeps over me, even in this place where summer reigns still…

“The work you did the other night opened up a doorway between our realms,” she begins again, without looking at me this time.  “We cannot close it now, for only you, the one who created it, hold the power to undo what you have done.”

She grabs my arm, digging those tiny talons in, stopping us.  Her head cocks to one side, staring deep into my eyes, as if to judge my awareness.  Cocking her head in the other direction, she insists, “You must hear me now, O’LeaRa!”

I nod slowly, understanding her, for I have had these messages before.  When the Fey speak, their words are almost always multi-layered, and every word they speak is chosen with care and foresight.  I know that over time, as events develop, the very meanings of the words will shift, though the words themselves will not.  It is one of the most remarkable things about Fairy Folk, and the English language as well; for English is so difficult to learn precisely because of its tendency to encode multiple meanings within words and sentence structure both.

“I understand,” I reassure her.  “I will remember your words for so long as they remain relevant to us all.”

She cocks her head one more time, searching my heart for the truth behind my words.  Apparently satisfied with what she finds, she urges us down the path once more…

“We are trying to contain those who would cross into your world, but not all who wish to cross respect the authority of our Mother,” Blackwing begins to explain.  “And there are those on your side of the void who are wandering across, uninvited as well.  I dare not speculate on motives, but I trust you understand how grave this situation is…?”  Her chirpy voice lifts at the end, making her statement a question again…

“Indeed,” I answer without hesitation.  “My kind cannot be trusted here, for even the best will make mistakes;  I need look no further than a mirror to know the truth of this!  And that doesn’t even touch on those who are not well-intentioned…”

She bobs her head at me.  “And so you must find a way to block the flow between our worlds, child…  It is the only way!”

My mind trips over those last few words, sensing something unspoken, yet important for me to hear…  “Have you any suggestions how I might do that, Blackwing?,” I ask point-blank, for this is no time for subtlety.

“I trust that you will know when the right answer appears,” she tells me now.  “But I do have gifts for you to help guide you to that place…”  She stops once more, turning to face me again.  I realize that I am shivering now, though I cannot be sure if I am cold or merely frightened…  She pries open the fingers of my left hand, clenched against whatever it is that is troubling me.

She places a small, flat stone there, shimmering softly in the failing light…  Or is it something else?

“A scale from the sacred Salmon,” she responds to my thoughts.  “May he serve to deepen both your Knowledge and your Wisdom on this quest.”

She places a long shred of smooth white bark onto my palm… “A piece of the Mother herself to protect you on your journey,” she explains.  “Wear it close to your heart, always.  Not all will respect her authority, but some may, and you will know that she is with you wherever you must go…”

Blackwing looks up, dark eyes boring into mine.  “Remember, always, O’LeaRa, that we are on your side.  No matter what happens, no matter where you go, or what lies find you along the way; we are with you always, and our love and respect remain!”

Tears well in my eyes as she speaks these words, and her tone softens in response.  “These first two are gifts from the Mother; this last is from someone else.”  She places a small acorn in my palm…

Confused, I lift my gaze to question her, but her image is swimming through my tears.  A profound sense of loss envelops me, though its cause is, as yet, unknown…  “I don’t understand,” I whisper through my tears.  “What is this?  What am I supposed to do with this?”

“Plant it, of course!,” Blackwing responds matter-of-factly.  “When the gate is finally closed, as much as you are able, you must plant this seed.  The oak that grows from it will guard the space for many, many days…”

Blackwing glances back over her shoulder quickly, then returns her gaze to me.  Urgency has replaced her calm reserve now, and I feel it sharply where her talons grab my shoulders.  She shakes me gently, pulling me from the reverie that calls me away.

“We are out of time; you must go now!,” she shouts above the rising winds, pushing me roughly ahead on the path.  I look beyond her to see an ominous storm coming in…

“Go now, O’LeaRa!” she repeats.  “You must be gone before the storm catches us!  If you are here when it arrives, you will be trapped here like the rest of us!”

I want to go, as fear grabs hold of me, but I am unsure of my direction, for I do not recognize this path.  Blackwing pushes me roughly ahead…

“Follow the path!  Do not deviate at all!  Just go, and trust your self!”

I turn to flee, but cannot resist a last glance over my shoulder…  Blackwing is standing across the path, wings held wide, as if guarding or hiding me.  The wind is howling through the tree tops, and it occurs to me that such a gale could seriously damage her outstretched wings…  Suddenly something nips my ankle, drawing my attention, and I see a tiny chipmunk at my feet.  He is one of many, and as soon as he has caught my eye, he turns to race ahead of me.  The others join him, drawing me forth, no longer playfully…

I find my feet and begin to race along the trail, soon outdistancing my little friends.  It is then I notice a fox running parallel with me.  For some reason, I take comfort from his presence, as he glances once at me, nods his greeting, and takes the lead.  And now the chase is truly on, as the storm behind grows ever more strong…

***     *****   ***

Racing along the forest trail, following the bright orange tail of the Fox ahead of me, I cannot help but notice how the path is narrowing.  Branches on either side, riled up by the gale force winds are grabbing at me as I pass by. Tree roots reach up to trip me, or at least to slow me down.  The wind blows my hair into my eyes, further obscuring my sight, my vision already compromised by the tears flowing freely down my cheeks.  Cold seeps in, settling deep within, making my steps weak and sluggish.  The Fox’s bright tail has slipped away, no longer guiding me.  I am disoriented now, lost in woods I do not recognize.  The path on which I ran is nothing more than a winding wish between and around the trees.  And these trees are not friendly to me…

I stumble to a stop, unsure of where to go.  I spin around once…  Twice… Three times.  And still I cannot find my way!  My friends have all abandoned me, seeking shelter from the storm, and I am alone here in these woods…

Alone…

Again…

Suddenly, I remember what Blackwing said, about how they would always be with me.  I clench my left fist tight, feeling the sacred objects within.  “No!,” I remind myself sharply.  “Alone is an illusion, a deception.  Someone, or some thing is trying to trick me!”

I look around once more, shaking off the melancholy trying to distract me…

“Focus, Lisa!  Just focus!  You can think your way out of this…”

I replay what I know, quicker than words can say. And then I realize the storm was rolling in from somewhere, and I had been headed the opposite way…  I gaze again upon the stormy scene, eyes renewed by hope, searching for a pattern that will tell me which way the storm is moving now.  It’s hard to tell here, with the winds whipping all around; the trees and bushes are in a desperate dance, without direction, all testing which will be flexible enough to survive.  I close my eyes and listen, taking deep breaths of the stormy air.  And then I hear it…

Like a rushing river not too far away, cascading over stone, I hear the rain.  There is a torrent of it nearby, but only the faintest sprinkles touch my skin.  “That’s it!,” I cry aloud.  “I must run away from the rain…”

With a renewed sense of purpose, I carry on, moving away from the sound of rushing water.  My steps are slow at first, testing myself, listening for all I’m worth.  Eventually, the scattered droplets disappear, and I realize I must be moving in the right direction.  As my confidence grows, so does my speed, until I’m flying between the trees with my own imagined wings…

As I think these thoughts, I realize I am, indeed, now flying among the trees.  And soon enough I see the Fox again, just ahead of me.  He glances up once as I overtake him on the trail, then veers away, seeking shelter among the underbrush.  I look ahead and see an opening in front of me, but it is shrinking before my very eyes.  Soon it will be too small for me to get through it at all.  But every living cell within me knows that this opening leads to where I must go…

I flap my wings hard, racing to the finish, when it suddenly occurs to me that I am actually flying now…

“Is this a dream?,” I ask myself.  “Because if it is, I have other options here…”

I hesitate a heartbeat, knowing that everything depends on me getting through that opening.  But my chances of making it, even with these wings is very slim.  So I trust myself once more, using a technique I’ve long employed to direct such lucid dreams…

I stop dead, hovering above the ground, then take a few deep breaths.  Turning, midair, I face the storm that threatens me.  Imagining my voice ringing loud and clear for all to hear, I shout with clear authority…

“STOP!!!”

“Everything… just… stop!”…

And everything does…

For that single fraction of a moment, everything stops: the wind, the rain, the sound of leaves blowing haphazardly around; even the colors of the scene have faded at my command…  Only I am free to move and speak.

And knowing that, I turn at once to flee…

I slide through the opening just as everything begins to move once more behind me, the wall of foliage slamming shut behind me.  The slamming door creates just enough thrust to send me tumbling through the tall grasses of the meadow beyond.

I lay there on my back, just breathing for a spell, staring up at a bleached blue sky.

“I am free,” I tell myself.

Repeatedly…

***     *****     ***

(to be continued)

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